Tending to the Mothership: Surviving COVID, Kids, Substance Use, Addiction and Holidays with Brenda Zane

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Tending to the Mothership: Surviving COVID, Kids, Substance Use, Addiction and Holidays with Brenda Zane

Uncertainty, unpredictability, fear, anxiety, fatigue, dread…life right now is likely a mixture of all these things and maybe more. As the parent of a child with substance use issues who's also navigating COVID and looking ahead to celebrating holidays, you may be wondering how you can keep it all together. The elements of life you know and love have changed, things you used to be able to count on aren't there anymore, and there's a feeling of underlying anxiety about the future. 

In this short, solo episode I'm sharing what it means to "tend the garden of you" and find ways to bring stability, peace, and joy to your life, even with a child in crisis and mid-pandemic. I also present ways to approach and survive holidays and special occasions when all you may be feeling is dread.

You'll come away with ideas around:

  • creating sacred moments in your day and why that's beneficial
  • creating and protecting a bubble that can help bring you joy
  • reframing holiday dread
  • letting go of things this holiday season
  • why it might be the perfect year to start something new
  • and I'm giving you a hall pass on the photo Christmas card this year!

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Welcome, I am so glad to have you here. Today I’m going to be talking about a few things that I believe are relevant to many of us, regardless of what stage your son or daughter might be in. And that is looking at ways that we can create a level of comfort and a feeling of normalcy and safety in our lives. When things are scary or uncertain. I call this tending to the garden of you. If you look at your body and mind and your external world as a garden, where there are plants, weeds, rocks, dirt, sun, rain, and then there’s also the occasional pasture, insect or bad weather that can threaten your gardens growth and health. Normally, we can pretty well tend to our garden. And we can keep things in balance, pulling weed here or there or fertilizing the flowers and vegetables that we want to grow and tilling the dirt to keep everything healthy. But then along comes a predator, it may be a rainstorm, or some bug that eats through your tomatoes and all of a sudden, the whole garden is out of balance. The weeds are taking over. And nothing is growing right. 
This might be the state of your garden right now, if you’re feeling the impact of COVID. And especially if you have a son or daughter who is misusing substances, your world may feel like nothing is normal. Nothing is happening like it used to. And that can be extremely unsettling. Your sense of safety from a health standpoint is changed, obviously right now. And your family life and your home might feel really scary and unfamiliar. You might be feeling like you’ve kind of been transported to this different world. And you just want things to go back to normal. And we’ll talk about some ideas around tending to the garden view so that things don’t feel so out of whack. 
I’m also going to share some thoughts on holidays and celebrations. Normally, this is a time when we share in honoring our spiritual beliefs. We celebrate gratitude, love, peace and togetherness. But those things are tricky to navigate right now. Because if you’re listening in real time, we are entering this season of holidays and celebrations that is going to look dramatically different this year. And not only because of COVID but many of you are also looking at celebrating differently because you have a child who’s either in a difficult and scary period of active addiction or misuse. Or they may not even be with you this year because they’re in treatment or in a living situation where coming home just isn’t a good idea or even an option. First let’s focus on tending to the garden of you, creating some elements of comfort normalcy and safety. 
Maybe you’re listening to this in 2022 and COVID is in the past, but you are experiencing a lot of anxiety and unrest because life is painful and your sense of personal and emotional safety feels compromised. This is a really common state to be in when your child’s living in this world of substance misuse, because nothing is predictable. you’re experiencing things that you have never experienced before. And life as you knew it is different, it may be dramatically different. It’s kind of like somebody snuck into your garden overnight and plant they planted a bunch of really ugly weeds. And they just left them there for you to figure out what to do with. 
And what can happen if you live for an extended amount of time in this state of anxiety and unrest. And uncertainty is that you’re unable to function well in all areas of your life. So that could be at home, at work, interacting with your family. And then you can start to feel like you don’t even recognize your own garden, you don’t even know whose garden you’re in anymore. Everything you do really starts to revolve around your at-risk child. And this isn’t a healthy way to live, it can eventually start to really impact your physical well being your sleep, your mental focus your immune system, the whole garden. You may be at a stage where you’re doing all of the things that you can do to help steer your child toward a healthier life. But life is still chaotic and stressful. And this is really when you need to actively put some things in place to give yourself a sense of control and predictability in your days. 
One way that you can do this is to look at some ways to create a sense of sacredness in your daily life. This just means that you find pieces of your day where you can create meaning and ritual around something that will be predictable and grounding. And ideally, it should be something that you do every day. Or you do it often enough that it lets you start to feel a sense of familiarity and comfort when you do it. You can start out by looking at your day to day actions. Think about what makes you feel calm. And notice things that you do where you could pay just a little extra attention and add a level of meaning and sacredness. And don’t let the word sacred scare you off. If that sounds weird or intimidating to you just think about something being cherished or revered, or ritualistic. 
As a real world example, I try to make the first 15 to 30 minutes of my day, my sacred time, a time that the outside world doesn’t get to penetrate. It’s kind of like a little bubble where I hold that time sacred for myself. And it also means that sometimes I have to get up extra early to preserve and experience it. But I have found that it’s really so grounding and crucial to my mental health, that I’m pretty neurotic about protecting that. In my morning bubble, I have a few things that I’ve made sacred, one is offering words of thanks and gratitude before I even open my eyes. I just lay in bed for an extra three to four minutes after I wake up. And I intentionally recognize the people and things that make my life what it is. I say prayers and I spend a few minutes connecting to my higher higher power, which is God to me, could be something else to you. And I actually have to do this before I even open my eyes because it’s really easy to just roll out of bed and start into the day with thoughts of yesterday and thoughts about tomorrow and the list of things that I have for today. And so adding this few minutes of mental gratitude and connection before the day begins is super, super important. 
Don’t feel like these things have to be unique or new. I’ve even made things that kind of sound mundane and boring part of my morning sacred bubble. And making the bed is part of this. And that might sound insignificant. But one of the things that I have recognized about myself is that if my environment is messy and unstructured, my mind feels the exact same way. So I carry this low level of underlying anxiety with me all day, if the bed isn’t made if my space isn’t relatively neat and tidy, and I think it’s also a sign to myself that I deserve a beautiful space and I deserve to spend a few minutes just taking care of my space and my things. Take a look at things like this. Just be mindful about what these small actions mean to you what’s the meaning behind them, and then see how you can give them a bit more significance. 
Another part of my bubble is drinking my coffee and listening to a guided meditation. And sometimes that’s three minutes. And sometimes it’s 15. It just depends on how I’m feeling and what the day looks like. But it’s a really important part of my sacred morning time. And some days, I might also write in a journal. But to be totally honest, that doesn’t happen every day. And if my son is awake, and he has a few minutes before he leaves for his day, I try really hard to keep that bubble closed, and bring him into it and talk with him before the rest of the day happens. But usually, if I just get in my gratitude, the bed making my coffee and a meditation that kind of sets up my day, really intentionally and in a really positive way. 
Now, your sacred activities might look totally different, you might have a candle that you like, or a book that you read, or a walk that you take, it really doesn’t matter what it is. But if it’s meaningful to you, and you can make it special, do that. And you can also add grounding and sacredness to your days and other ways. Like sometimes people need to set an alarm for a time of day, when you know that you tend to feel wound up and the anxieties building, you can just use your phone or however you do it to set an alarm with a reminder to just step away, take a few deep breaths, it might mean that you have to sneak off to the bathroom at work if you’re going into an office right now. Or if you’re working from home, maybe you have to step into your closet for a few minutes. But do that, take a step away, take a deep breath, drink some water, maybe you want to offer a thought of gratitude that you know when those times are in your in your day, when you just need to be a little bit intentional about taking care of yourself. 
You might want to play a specific song in your car that has meaning for you and brings you comfort. Or maybe there’s an essential oil that brings you joy and calm or you might have a bath or a shower routine, where you just spend a few extra minutes making a special, it’s really what’s important to you. And something that you can repeat, and something that you can expect and look forward to. And that will definitely help those feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. When nothing is the same day to day, you have to force that and put those things into place for yourself. Because right now there’s really so much that you can’t control whether that’s the COVID virus, whether that’s what your son or daughter is doing. But right now, there’s also a lot of things that you can control and that you can do for yourself to bring that sense of intention to your days. 
I would just encourage you to spend a few minutes and the next day or two. Just think through your day. Where can you add this sense of sacredness? Where can you create your bubble? Even if it’s a quick bubble? It just it doesn’t have to be a long one. But just create a quick bubble. Where can you create this, and then repeat it and look forward to it each day, or at least as often as possible. 
The second part of this thought about creating space for sacredness in your day has to do with the holidays and celebrations. I know when I was going through the dark years with my son, this was such a challenging thing. Because like a lot of people I really love to plan and decorate and create traditions. And you know, celebrating special occasions and holidays is a huge and important part of our lives. So if you have a child who is either in treatment, or maybe they’re not even really a part of your day to day family life right now, it can be so painful. And it can be really depressing when a special day or season rolls around. I know that I started to dread a holidays and things like birthdays and Mother’s Day because it just wasn’t the way it used to be. And it really just felt so wrong to me because that’s not who I am. I’m somebody who always tries to make the best of things. And especially when it comes to holidays. 
Holidays can also be a painful reminder of what’s going on because what you remember are all of the fun, carefree happy times in the past where you were celebrating and that contrast of where you are now might feel really huge. But if you’re down and miserable, there’s a good chance that the people in your life your people are going to start feeling that same way too. So looking ahead, if you’re listening in real time, we’re approaching Thanksgiving 2020 – which kind of sounds like an oxymoron now that I think about it – but we’re gonna be having Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and New Years. And we’re all trying to figure out how are we going to do this in a safe way, we want to keep our family safe. And we also are trying to cope with a kid who might not be in a good place. Or you may have a kid who’s in a much better place than they have been. And you want to keep them there. You don’t want things to fall apart during the holidays.
So I think it’s just important to reframe the way that we approach the holidays this year, and find some ways to keep ourselves in a positive mood and not let the events of this year take over. myself personally, my natural tendency would be to just sort of do the bare minimum skip decorations, just sort of concede to store bought food when I would normally cook everything from scratch, and I would just sort of get by. But the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I know that that is just the wrong way to do it. That is letting the circumstances in life direct, how I get to enjoy my time and my family. It would basically be saying, okay, you win COVID sucks, my kid’s making my life hell, there’s probably a couple of other dramas going on in your life. And I’m just going to be a victim of all of that that’s happening. You win life, right?
But let’s not let that negativity win. I really want us to make a decision right now that we are going to do what feels right and what feels good. And we need to acknowledge that we might have to extend some extra energy to do it. Because if we don’t, we’re going to struggle through and it’s going to be February. And we’ll be saying wait, what happened, did we even have holidays last year, we just got gypped. And we will end up being victims when we don’t need to be. 
Now I know everybody is different. And everyone has different experiences and memories that are attached to holidays. So we aren’t all end up going to end up celebrating in the same way. But what I’m saying is don’t just default to something that doesn’t bring you a bit of joy, some happiness or some level of comfort. If you have other children in your home, they especially will appreciate the effort that you put into making it a special season this year. And they can actually help you so that you’re not doing it alone. And if your energy level just isn’t enough to do your full holiday thing, you’re just worn out, just figure out what’s the most meaningful to you, you know, ask your family, what’s the one or two things that they most love about your family’s way of celebrating, and just do those, you know, maybe there’s one special element that you’re going to hold on to because that’s what you’ll have the energy to do this year. 
This year might be the perfect time also to let go of some things that you’ve always done, just because just because you’ve never really had a reason, or an excuse to drop them from your holiday activities. Like maybe there’s a food dish that you always feel like you have to make, because you just always have. And this year you can make the conscious decision not to, or maybe you’ve always sent out a Christmas card. And this year, it’s hard because what do you do about a picture of your son or your daughter who’s in treatment? Or who’s not really living with you? Because they’re kind of couch surfing? Or what do you do about the kid who refuses to even be near or present or sober enough to get a picture of them? This is the reality of where you might be and guess what, it is okay to not send a Christmas card, or to send one that doesn’t have photos in it this year. Do whatever you need to do so that you’re not stressed out. 
It’s these kinds of things that we get to evaluate this year in particular, because guess what, there are no rules that you must follow. And if 2020 has showed us anything, it’s that we can find or be forced to find new ways of doing things that we never considered before. And even though we’re doing things different, or we’re not doing things at all life goes on and we might find out that those things didn’t really have as much importance as we thought they did. It can be really freeing actually. And if you’re also dealing with a child at risk right now you get a hall pass to do things in what ever the heck way you need to get them done to survive and enjoy some elements of your holidays this year. 
And another way to reframe thinking around this year is to think about this as a great year to start a new tradition, something that your family will be able to talk about decades from now and say, yeah, we started that in 2020, when we couldn’t be together to celebrate, or whatever your situation is, it’s kind of funny how a challenging time like this can actually help us. We can go and sift through everything that we’re doing, and everything that’s going on to get down to what is truly meaningful. And I love the idea of starting something new this year, because 2020 is going to live a large in our minds for a while. But in 10 years, or in 15 years, when we’re pulling out the fall and the winter decorations, and we’re shopping for turkey without even having to wait in line. And we’re safely flying around the country or the world to be with our friends and families. The unusual nuances of life right now aren’t going to be as fresh in our mind, your son or daughter who’s causing you so many problems right now, with headaches and heartaches, they’re going to be in a different place, and you are going to be healthier. And this season will be in the past. And it will be a time that you reflect on. And so starting something new now, having sort of an anchor, something that reminds us of this time will be really important. And ultimately, I want you to attend to the garden of you in the next few months in a really intentional and loving way. Don’t move through these days and weeks on autopilot or just rush through them just hoping that there’ll be done.
I know that that can be a temptation, when life is in a state of upset and when things aren’t going as they have in the past. I encourage you though, to just slow down for a few minutes, create some sacredness that you can savor each day, whether that’s small or big, create that bubble, because you need it and you deserve it and think about letting go, what needs to be let go of this season. And think about starting new with the holidays. And whatever feels right to you, this is the year to do it. 
If you’re a mom listening to this and thinking hmm, there must be other moms out there listening to I can tell you that there are thousands of other moms that are searching for this same information. And for a more personal connection. You can find me and a bunch of these moms by going to my website Brenda Zane calm and there you will get lots of information about a really special online community of moms called The Stream. We have regular calls and chat sessions. We do a monthly yoga class for stress and anxiety. And it’s all positively focused. It is not on Facebook and it’s completely confidential. Membership is on a pay-what-you-can model. So if you want to join this community and you need the support, you’re in. 
You might also want to download my free ebook called “HINDSIGHT, Three Things I Wish I Knew When My Son Was Addicted To Drugs.” It is packed with information that I truly wish I had known back in the darker years with my son. And so I share it now in case it might be helpful to you in your journey. You can get that at Brendazane.com/hindsight, and I will put a link to both of these resources in the show notes as well. 
Thank you so much for listening. I’ll meet you right back here next week.

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